Outdoor Heating | Make Your Patio a Year-round Getaway

Our patios and yards have beckoned us throughout the COVID pandemic to safe yet intimate al fresco entertaining. Innovative outdoor heaters can upgrade your patio into a year-round oasis, infusing your outdoor space with style and cozy ambiance. Firepits, firepit tables, chimineas, patio heaters and outdoor fireplaces are surging in popularity, as we increasingly extend our living spaces to the outdoors. Of course, dress in layers, don hats and gloves, and keep throws handy to stay toasty on chilly evenings spent relaxing in your outdoor getaway.

When investing in outdoor heaters, consider the size of your outdoor space, the style and ambiance you hope to create, safety and environmental concerns, and your budget. Decide whether firewood, electricity or propane/natural gas is your optimal heat source, and, for electric and propane-fueled heaters, if infrared (radiant) or convection heat best meets your needs. Heating output, measured in watts for electricity and British Thermal Units (BTUs) for propane, indicates your heater’s strength while its heating range, measured in square feet, denotes its reach. Obviously, the greater your heater’s output and range, the better it will warm your space. Confirm that your outdoor heater is constructed with quality materials, such as stainless steel, to maximize its safety and durability.

Whether freestanding or mounted, the model you choose is a determining factor in its heat source. For example, propane or natural gas can fuel standalone heaters but not mounted ones; electricity safely powers both freestanding and mounted models. Ensure your heater assembles easily, and identify the accessories (spark screen, pokers, covers, wheels) safety features (automatic shut-off), and the warranty and customer service agreements your purchase covers to get the best value for your money.

There are many vendors who manufacture popular outdoor heating systems. You can research and purchase them online or in big box stores like Home Depot, Walmart or Lowes. Amazon publishes their bestsellers as well as customer reviews ranking product features like portability and durability.

Firepits, chimineas and firepit tables are ideal for heating smaller outdoor venues and fetch prices from $50 to over $1,500. Firepits and chimineas typically burn firewood while firepit tables generally run on propane. Install your wood-burning firepit in an open space, at least 20 to 25 feet away from any flammable structure—like wooden decks—or one prone to smoke stains. While picturesque, wood-burning firepits can billow smoke into your guests’ faces as they bask in its warm glow. Chimineas solve this problem by adding a chimney funnel atop the wood-burning base to direct smoke vertically, yet may eclipse a 360-degree view of the fire. Propanebased firepit tables create a warm and festive air, look great surrounded by cozy chairs, and are safer for patios and decks than wood-burning alternatives.

Fueled by electricity or propane, patio heaters are excellent options for warming larger outdoor spaces and begin at a little higher price point of $250 to over $1,500. Many consider electric-fueled patio heaters as the safest, most versatile and eco-friendly outdoor heating alternative, though your electricity bill might spike. They don’t emit gases; can be freestanding, mounted, and used indoors; and deliver a steady heat supply without frequent gas tank refills. Electric heat warms by infrared (radiant) heat, which projects invisible energy wavelengths to nearby objects, not the surrounding air. Infrared heat is wind-resistant, economical and harmless. Research shows it can even boost our immune, circulation and metabolic system!

In contrast, propane-fueled outdoor heaters generate convectional heat, which suffuses and warms the surrounding air. They deliver a remarkable heating range (think 18 square feet) and heat output (about 50,000 BTUs). Most propane heaters sport a 20-pound refillable tank, an easy push-button ignition system, and a safety cut-off valve. Unlike electric heat, propanefueled heat is vulnerable to the wind and can emit harmful residual gases.

Patio heaters embody the marriage of function and style, radiating robust warmth while keeping it chic. An electric patio heater attractively mounted within your pergola, coupled with a freestanding heater featuring Bluetooth speakers, will charm and warm your guests. Propane patio heaters, which feature an elegant pyramid shape with glass tubes illuminating mesmerizing flames and the unique cylinder and domed-top design, are on trend.

Outdoor fireplaces graciously extend your outdoor entertaining season. Built from kits and often requiring professional installation, freestanding propane fireplaces are the most expensive outdoor heating option, with prices climbing from $700 to over $5,000. These sturdy fireplaces can weigh up to half a ton, radiate generous heat (nearing 65,000 BTUs), and start with a simple push of an ignition button—everything you need for instant and heartwarming entertaining.

Whatever your budget, you can find an outdoor heating system that will make your patio and yard the perfect year-round retreat.


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